A battle is brewing between the NZTA, it’s agent the Low Volume Vehicle Technical Association, and vehicle designer Roger Phillips over a decision to reverse the certification of eight modified Skoda Yeti vehicles.
LVVTA says it found 400 faults between the eight modified vehicles, some which it says were serious and affected the handling of the car.
LVVTA CEO Tony Johnson told Autotalk the structure of the cars and the suspension were so badly compromised by the modifications, that the standard 1.6mm toe change of the Skoda Yeti grew to 43mm in the modified vehicles.
This would cause the rear of the car to bump steer says Johnston.
Phillip’s company U Drive Mobility modified the Yetis so they could be driven by people in wheelchairs. But LVVTA says he did not involve an engineer in the build process.
Johnson says when LVVTA started inspecting the vehicles it became evident there was no conformity of production, and the certifier concerned approved modifications when he never should have.
The cars were originally approved, until the Transport Agency reversed its decision.
NZTA revoked the warrants of fitness in December 2013 because of safety concerns, including the replacement of the steel floor with one made of bonded composite aluminium.
Phillips says they are safe and are made from materials that are now common overseas. He told Autotalk that the LVVTA won’t accept independent test data or a peer review that says the vehicles are 100% fit for purpose.
“The French government by example has asked us to come and build them in France,” he says. “They are willing to offer us a great deal of financial support to build them in France.”
The Vehicle Association for People with Disabilities says it was one of the groups that raised concerns.
“They are serious safety issues,” says the organisation’s Robert Berger. “The certifier should have put a stop to it at the beginning and then there wouldn’t have been an issue and it would have been on one car.”
Phillips has been asked to modify the cars by New Zealand authorities, but says that would destroy the structural integrity of the car.
NZTA stands by its decision, saying that it has to look out for not only the drivers of the cars, but also everybody else who uses the roads.
The cars are to be crash tested in France for ECE type approval. Phillips says he hopes that might help get the vehicles back on the road here.